“I have harnessed the cosmic rays and caused them to operate a motive device,“ declared Nikola Tesla, famous scientist, in an interview last evening on the eve of his 76th birthday.
Tesla, who all his life has worked in seclusion and struggles to avoid publicity with all the vigor with which movie stars court it, permits a handful of “science writers” to violate the rules as a sort of birthday party.
It is very much of an ordeal to the tall, straight, meticulously attired gentleman whose inventions have been epoch-making and who is unable to understand why the public should be interested in him.
“Cosmic ray investigation is a subject that is very close to me. I was the first to discover these rays and I naturally feel toward them as I would toward my own flesh and blood,” said Dr. Tesla.
His statement is borne out by reference to clippings of interviews with him more than a quarter of a century ago in which he discussed “penetrating rays” and to which not much attention was given as no one was able to comprehend the nature of them as he discussed them.
“I have advanced a theory of the cosmic rays and at every step of my investigations I have found it completely justified.” said Dr. Tesla.
Dr. Tesla stated that the amount of power he was able to develop in the device was insignificant.
I asked him if its power output was of the same magnitude as that of Crookes’ radiometer, the device with four vanes in a glass tube that are rotated by sunlight, and which is often seen in jewelers’ windows. He stated that the power output was many thousand times that of a Crookes’ radiometer.
“The attractive features of the Cosmic rays is their constancy. They shower down on us throughout the whole 24 hours, and if a plant is developed to use their power it will not require devices for storing energy as would be necessary with devices using wind, tide or sunlight.”
“All of my investigations seem to point to the conclusion that they are small particles, each carrying so small a charge that we are justified in calling them neutrons. They move with great velocity, exceeding that of light.
“More than 25 years ago I began my efforts to harness the cosmic rays and I can now state that I have succeeded in operating a motive device by means of them.”
I was able to prevail upon Dr. Tesla to give me some idea of the principle upon which his cosmic ray motor works.
“I will tell you in the most general way,” he said. “The cosmic ray ionizes the air, setting free many charges—ions and electrons. These charges are captured in a condenser which is made to discharge through the circuit of the motor.”
“I have hopes of building my motor on a large scale, but circumstances have not been favorable to carrying out my plan.”
I asked Dr. Tesla if his plan for transmission of power between planets involved the use of cosmic rays, and he stated that the two projects have no connection whatever. He stated that he has continued his experimental work in the laboratory on the interplanetary power transmission project and is certain of its feasibility.
I also asked him if he is still at work on the project which he inaugurated in the ‘90’s of transmitting power wirelessly anywhere on earth. He is at work on it, he said, and it could be put into operation.
He at that time announced two principles which could be used in this project. In one the ionizing of the upper air would make it as good a conductor of electricity as a metal.In the other the power would be transmitted by creating “standing waves” in the earth by charging the earth with a giant electrical oscillator that would make the earth vibrate electrically in the same way a bell vibrates mechanically when it is struck with a hammer.
“I do not use the plan involving the conductivity of the upper strata of the air,” he said, “but I use the conductivity of the earth itself, and in this I need no wires to send electrical energy to any part of the globe.”
(Interview by John O’Neill. Brooklyn Eagle, July 10, 1932.)